MONTREUX: Syrian peace talks began Wednesday in Switzerland with a bitter clash over President Bashar Assad’s future.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Assad’s decision to meet peaceful dissent with brutal force had robbed him of all legitimacy while Assad’s foreign minister declared that no one outside Syria had the right to remove the government. The Syrian opposition said the whole point of the peace conference was to create a transitional government without Assad.
Less than three hours into peace talks that have been on the verge of collapse since they were first floated, the two sides seemed impossibly far apart.
“We really need to deal with reality,” Kerry said. “There is no way — no way possible in the imagination — that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain the legitimacy to govern. One man and those who have supported him can no longer hold an entire nation and a region hostage.”
“The right to lead a country does not come from torture, nor barrel bombs, nor Scud missiles. It comes from the consent of the people,” he added.
Kerry was followed by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who refused to give up the podium despite repeated requests from the U.N. secretary-general.